You open your email one morning to unexpectedly learn that the band you've anxiously been waiting to see for the past three years has finally announced a tour stop in your town. How do you buy concert tickets online that are actually good seats?
For most concerts that are held at venues with a capacity of a few thousand people or more, the promoter will conduct an online presale giving you a chance to buy tickets prior to the official onsale. The public onsale typically starts at 10 am on a Saturday, meaning the presale will usually begin on Wednesday or Thursday and end on Friday. Buying tickets the moment the presale starts - or any time during the presale - will give you a great chance at getting great seats while still paying face value for your tickets.
These presales almost always require a password. However, with just a little ingenuity you can easily find out the password. Oftentimes the radio station sponsoring the concert will also sponsor the presale. So, all it takes is creating an account at the radio station's website to get the online presale password and greatly increase your chances of getting good tickets to the concert.
Other times the band's website will be involved in the concert's presale. In this instance the online presale password will either be readily available at the band's website or you will simply have to register at their site to join the band's fan club or receive news updates from the band - something you'll likely want anyway - in order to get the password. For major bands (like the Rolling Stones) you may have to pay a membership fee in order to join the fan club and be granted access to the password/presale.
Another presale that is becoming more and more common is the corporate-sponsored presale. Oftentimes the headlining sponsor of the concert is a credit card company. When this is the case, you must be a credit card holder of this company in order to get access to the presale. Sometimes it's a retail chain, like Best Buy, that is sponsoring the concert and the presale. When Best Buy has conducted presales in the past, they have required that you are a member of their Reward Zone member, and have registered for this program by a certain date (prior to the start of the presale) in order to have access to get the password and have access to the presale. Best Buy has also issued unique passwords per person, making it impossible to find the password, as each password issued can only be used once. However, you can search eBay or Craigslist for people who have obtained the password but are selling it.
To find any password - regardless of how the presale is being conducted - you can always simply try searching the web. Enter presale password and the name of the band, city and/or venue and sponsor. (Example: presale password Jane's Addiction Denver Magness Arena KBCO radio.) If you don't have success, you may want to try limiting your search query to presale, password, and the band's name. There's a fair chance you'll have success.
If searching the entire web isn't fruitful, try searching at the message boards or forum at the band's website or at a fan site. For example, antsmarching.org is a Dave Matthews Band site run by fans that has more information on the band, and is frequented by big fans, more than the band's official site. Searching at antsmarching.org for information on the band's concerts is more helpful than searching the official site. If you don't see the password in the forum, you should try posting a question asking for it, or contacting another user in the forum directly. I did this for the Jane's Addiction concert on Halloween in 2001 and scored great seats to a very memorable show.
If you're really desperate, your last hope is to simply guess. Passwords are usually not that unusual. More often than not, the password is related to the name of tour, the new album or the album's first single. So, for U2's 2001 "Elevation" tour promoting the 2000 release of their album All That You Can't Leave Behind, a password for a presale would quite likely be "Elevation" (the name of the tour and a song on the album) or "Beautiful Day" (the name of the first single from the album). Don't laugh - this has worked for me. When the Colorado Rockies made their historical, improbable run to the World Series in the fall of 2007, I guessed the presale password for tickets to the NLCS and scored tickets directly behind home plate in the first row of the upper level for all three games. I didn't have to be that clever, either, and I guessed the password on my second try - "NLCS."
Missing out on the presale does not mark the end of your hopes to get great tickets to the concert (or game). The morning of the public onsale, be online 10 or 15 minutes prior to the time the sale starts. It's a good idea to create an account (and log in) at the website conducting the sale. That way you will have already provided all of the information the site needs to conduct the sale. This is mildly important because once you are given a seat location, you only have a certain amount of time to complete your order. If you haven't already created and logged in to your account, you may find yourself scrambling to beat the clock. Buying tickets online is your best bet to get good seats. It's not wise to get in line at a ticket outlet unless you live in a small town where there is unlikely to be a crowd.
Late Release of Tickets
What happens if you get shutout from buying tickets altogether or the tickets you could buy are so terrible you'd rather not go? Well, you wait, that's what happens. For every concert, the promoter, band and venue all hold tickets without knowing how many they'll actually need. If any of them wind up not needing all of the tickets they held, which is almost always the case, the tickets will be released for sale to the general public within a few days (or the day) of the event. So, it's a good idea to periodically search for tickets in the days leading up to the concert. These seats are actually usually very good, because the promoter, band or venue are holding them for important people - their family, friends and clients.
If your last-ditch efforts to buy tickets directly from the promoter fail, you can always look to buy from people selling them online at sites like eBay and Craiglist. Or, show up to the venue the day of the show to buy from people selling on the street. For shows that were overpriced in the first place (Madonna), you may be able to actually buy tickets under face value. And if you're ever looking for a single ticket, buying from someone on the street for under face value is quite common.